Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter showers.

The beautiful weather that we had for ten days before Easter unfortunately didn't last, the rain returned but  storm Katie missed us. Night time temperatures are lower now than during the winter and we had a heavy frost last night. Some plants are looking a bit frost bitten, like the Arum lilies and the Agapanthus but they will recover.
The spring bulbs are not affected by cold nights
Pulmonaria, Blue Ensign.
with more plants appearing daily.
Some of them I haven't a clue as to what they are,
I'm not very good at labelling plants,

the main thing is they have come up and have added spring colour to the garden. The frost has not affected the rhubarb either and we are picking it twice weekly. Soon it will be strawberry time. The season is moving fast.

Being Easter I made the usual Hot Cross Buns which we had intended to take over to friends who had invited us for lunch on Good Friday,  half way there and I remembered them, a bit too late to turn back, however they didn't go to waste.
At last Ireland is catching up with the UK in the brewing of craft beers, we have several small breweries in the area and so far all of the beers that we have tried have been very good, the latest one to be tried comes from Manorhamilton in Co. Leitrim, BenIskin. Described as Rossinver Blond it made a great accompaniment for the Sunday roast. Definitely one that we will look out for.
The last couple of weeks have been busy seed planting, the propagator is full as is the cold frame and the greenhouse and as soon as the soil warms up again the main crop of potatoes will be planted.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Drying out.

I love this purple  Iris.
After a very wet winter at last the land is drying out, helped by strong sunshine,
it has been dry enough to get out the rotovator and take out the hard work of preparing the land for potato planting.
The ridger ( red bit) saves a lot of work.
We have a ridger attachment for the rotaovator, this removes the effort of digging out trenches for the potato's. The  earlies are now planted, we have chosen five different types this year, Charlotte,  Catriona, Lady Balfour, Sainte and Nicola, and unlike last year each row has been clearly marked! For the main crop we will be sowing Sarpo Axona instead of the Sarpo Mira, it will be interesting to see for ourselves how they compare to each other. One unwelcomed find under the ground cover were six new Zealand flat worms, these horrible creatures eat earth worms and there is no known cure other than finding them and destroying them, so far no others have been found and we still have masses of earth worms. We will set traps around the garden in the hope of capturing them before they do too much damage.
Things are growing a pace this year,
even the asparagus has sent up a couple of shoots, far too early, we are still getting frosts at night despite the high daytime temperatures.
The crocus are beautiful this year and have multiplied.
The garden is now full of colour,
daffodils are doing particularly well,
they started very early and it looks as though they will continue for a good while yet,
a lots of them are perfumed which has attracted the  small Tortoiseshell butterflies,
they also love the Hyacinths.

Primroses are in bloom everywhere, soon the bluebells will be out, they are already in leaf, quite early for bluebells.
Less than 65cents a pot.
Last week a local supermarket had limes on special offer, 29cents for three, as we both love lime marmalade I couldn't pass on such a bargain. Lime marmalade is very expensive to buy, not that we would buy it, too many additives, I bought five bags of limes, plus organic lemons, 1800grams of sugar, total cost four euros sixty five cents, in total it made seven large jars plus a sample jar, less than 65cents a jar, it has set rather too well, I like marmalade with a little bit of run, but it tastes lovely.
Yummy malt loaf.
I have also come across an excellent recipe for malt loaf, something that you seldom see or even hear of nowadays, the recipe makes two loaves, presumably recognising  that the loaf improves with keeping but that most people will have to try it before it has reached it's maturity. I must admit, the first loaf  eaten in the first three days was very good, the second loaf having been kept for a few days was much better!
Incense burner to be glazed id black gold.
I have been doing a pottery course for the last six weeks,
This piece will be glazed in turquoise.
it has been very enjoyable and I think I have learnt a lot from our excellent teacher, however three hours once a week is rather too short to get all the pieces finished so the course has been extended,
Waiting to be decorated.
all the pieces have had their first firing,
Waiting for the under glaze painting to be done before the final firing.
but the painting and glazing still remains to be done, hopefully all of the classes peices will be finished this coming week so we can start with new projects after Easter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cleaning up the tunnel.

The last few day I have spend tidying up the tunnel, the strawberry beds were overgrown, the tunnel pathways carpeted with suckers.
It's nice to see a cleaned bed.
I cleaned up each plant removed dozens of suckers and the beds were given a top dressing of good garden compost. It's a job I should have done last autumn but never got round to.
Quite a few of the plants already have blossom, so we might have a nice early crop.
We grow a lot of strawberries, we have four beds in total, three in the tunnel and one outside as we refuse to buy imported strawberries which are sold all year round, out of season mostly, and totally flavourless. Besides eating the fresh fruit I make quite a bit of strawberry jam and they also bottle well.
We decided we would increase the number of plants this year, so Simon has converted an old forty gallon barrel into a strawberry planter. This barrel will take fifty plants.
After heating the plastic ease the slots out to take the plants.
Firstly he marked out where the slots would go, four inches long and six inches apart, you then drill a hole so as to be able to get a small jigsaw blade in, cut the slots.
You then heat each slot with a heat gun and using a round fencing post open up the gap.
The perforated pipe will take green waste from the kitchen. just add a handful of worms.
You also need a perforated pipe in the centre either for watering or as a worm composter, we will use it for composting with worms which should give lots of good compost for the strawberry plants. You also need a few drainage holes close to the bottom of the barrel to stop it becoming waterlogged and a good layer of gravel. I would have liked the outside of the barrel covered with gravel for aesthetic purpose, but to get the gravel to stick you have to use a lot of PVA, so it will remain white,
by the time the strawberries have grown most of the barrel should be covered anyway.
Happy looking peach tree.
The peach tree in the tunnel is covered in blooms, the most we have ever had, unfortunately there are no bees or other pollinators around so the flowers will have to be hand pollinated. Not all these flowers will be allowed to develop, they would make too much weight for the branches to hold as we found out two years ago when we lost the top third of the tree due to excess weight. The lemon tree is also a mass of blooms, maybe it's going to be a good fruit year.
Eyes left.
Eyes right.
The wild birds are all busy sorting out partners including these beautiful swans, but I've not seen any nest building yet,
however the frogs have been busy and have laid a mass of spawn in our pond,
Lots of spawn.
as we lost Daffy duck this spawn should stand a good chance of reaching maturity and bless us with lots of little frogs,  we certainly have enough slugs for them to eat.
This polyanthus is much darker than it appears in the photo. 
Each time I walk around the garden I find something new in bloom, but I do suspect that we have lost a fair few bulbs due to all the rain we have had.